CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte Hornets added 6 foot 7 point guard LaMelo Ball to their roster with the third pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.
“Definitely excited,” said the newest Charlotte Hornet LaMelo Ball. “I’m just letting it all hit me right now. But like I said, I’m ready to play. I’m definitely ready to come in and just ready to lace them up.”
Ball recently played basketball with the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL in Australia. There, Ball averaged 17 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game and was the league rookie of the year at 19 years old.
“He’s a very young, talented player and he plays at the kind of pace that we like to play,” said Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak. “He has a kind of flare to his game that maybe has some entertainment to it more so than some other players. Having said that, that’s not why we drafted him. We drafted him because of his size and his length, the way he can handle the ball and pushes the ball.”
Ball’s brother Lonzo plays for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. His father is LaVar Ball, who became a polarizing sports personality for making outlandish remarks when Lonzo was in college at UCLA and was then drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ball will join the Hornets’ backcourt with Terry Rozier, Devonte Graham and Malik Monk. With Ball’s size of 6 foot 7, there could be times where he is on the court with any combination of the three at the same time as Ball could potentially slide to point-forward.
“I feel like I fit anywhere real good, and definitely the point forward--I feel like could work because it’s definitely positionless basketball now,” said Ball. “You can just get in and go.”
Pre-Draft Analysis (according to ESPN):
Strengths - Has elite size for a point guard at 6-foot-7. Controls the game from his unique vantage point with impressive creativity, flair, poise and instincts operating off a live dribble. Gifted ball handler who plays at different speeds and can make every pass with either hand, especially operating out of pick-and-roll. Throws 90-foot outlets, makes magical touch passes. - Has a chance to be an adequate defender due to his combination of terrific size, quick feet and instincts, particularly when he’s playing with energy. Already has some impressive moments rotating for steals and contesting shots around the basket. Excellent rebounder for a guard. - Won’t turn 19 until well after the draft. Will be one of the youngest players picked in the first round. Might still be growing.
Improvement areas - Has struggled to score efficiently throughout his career. Shot just 46% from 2-point range and 25% from 3. Shoots jumpers with unorthodox mechanics, including a two-handed release while kicking out his legs. The touch he shows on floaters and career 82% free throw percentage leaves room for optimism, but his inability to buy a basket at times this season in the half-court was discouraging. - Lacks a degree of high-end explosiveness creating offense from a standstill and beating opponents off the dribble. Doesn’t have the strength to finish what he does create around the basket. Relies on a lot of tough floaters and other difficult attempts inside the arc. - Indifferent defender for much of his career. Still reverts back to that frequently, especially off the ball. Struggles to get over screens due to his lack of strength. Has been maligned at times for his work ethic and level of focus.
It was Charlotte’s highest selection since the franchise changed the name back to the Hornets in 2013. That year, they selected Cody Zeller, from Indiana, with the fourth overall pick. The last time a Charlotte NBA team drafted in the top three was in 2006 when the Charlotte Bobcats took Adam Morrison with the third pick.
In the second round of the draft, the Hornets selected Duke University’s Vernon Carey Jr. with the 32nd overall pick.
Carey only played one season at Duke before declaring for the draft.
He was named the ACC’s Freshman of the Year, averaging 17.8 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game on 57 percent shooting.
Pre-Draft Analysis (According to Mike Schmitz, ESPN)
- Physically imposing paint presence who has done a great job of improving his body and conditioning. Able to catch deep in the paint. Powerful athlete. Mobile for his body type.
- Has the makings of an inside-outside game. At his best in the post. Polished footwork. Agile with spin moves. Shows potential as a perimeter shooter, though inconsistent at this point.
- Excellent positional rebounder. Does a great job of keeping bigs on his back, pursuing defensive rebounds and getting the ball out quickly. Can protect the rim in a pinch.
- Will have to rely more on skill and touch than physicality in the NBA. Not the defensive anchor he’d need to be to make up for some of his shortcomings on the perimeter.
- Needs to improve greatly as a passer and perimeter shooter for his game to translate seamlessly. Has been much more aggressive as a freshman than in the past, as he was prone to floating through games in other settings.
Last year, the Hornets selected P.J. Washington, from Kentucky, with the 12th overall pick. Washington averaged 12.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in his first season.
The NBA season is slated to begin on Dec. 22. The Hornets have not released their schedule.
The Hornets had a 23-42 record last year until play was stopped in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.